Friday, August 28, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 15

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The Federation knows a psychic is on board Matt and Michelle’s ship.

Rogue psychic.

The Feds knew. Or at least they guessed. It shouldn’t have surprised me after they chased us off Draconis, but actually hearing the accusation shook me in a way I hadn’t expected. With effort, I listened to Michelle’s response.

“Are you honestly talking about blowing our ship up because we might have a psychic…” Michelle paused for a second. When she continued, her voice was thick with sarcasm. “Excuse me, a rogue psychic—oooh, that’s so much more sinister sounding—on board? That doesn’t strike anyone as overkill?”

“Untrained, uncontrolled psychics are a danger to society, young woman,” Jones replied, his voice harsh. “I cannot believe you are unaware of the Cairo Catastrophe. It’s required teaching in all schools in the Federation.”

“Yes, I’m aware of it. But just because one psychic went insane and panicked an entire city, doesn’t mean anything,” Michelle insisted. “That was four centuries ago, for God’s sake!”

“Which shows that Psy Corps works,” Jones said.

Or it shows that most psychics, like most regular people, aren’t dangerous!” Michelle countered.

As Michelle argued, I busied myself entering commands for the autopilot.

“I’m not going to discuss this with you any further,” Jones declared. “You have one minute to comply with these orders or we will launch missiles.”

“Go to hell!” Michelle snarled, slapping the off switch for the comm. She took a couple of seconds to regain control then turned to face me. “Is there any chance we can make it to a wormhole before the missiles get us?”

“If they launch missiles,” Michelle gave me an exasperated look, so I quickly added, “which they probably will, but we can hope they don’t! Anyway, no, we can’t reach a wormhole before the missiles reach us. It’s not even close.”

Michelle bit her lip, something she only does when working through a problem, and nodded. “If Odenton included voice recordings in her messages, she almost certainly included logs of our escape, too. It’s a safe bet the navy knows we can deal with a small number of missiles. If they attack, they’ll use way more than three missiles… What will we need that we haven’t already got stowed in the various suit compartments?”

“I’ve got tools and electronics to help me open any airlock we reach,” I said, “and I stuffed all of our credit sticks into one of the pockets. What about the messages you wanted to send?”

“Already sent, though none of them include our plan to abandon ship,” Michelle replied. “When we get into the space station, our first priority has got to be sending a followup message. If our parents hear a ship was destroyed in the Piscain Hub after the messages I’ve already sent…”

I hadn’t even gotten that far in my thinking but tried for a knowing expression when I nodded. “Explaining all of this will be complicated. Can you create a coded message to cover it all?”

“Oh, yeah,” Michelle waved my concern off without even thinking about it. “Daddy prepared a lot of different codes, including one that lets us encrypt any message.”

Michelle and I turned to the sensor display as the last seconds of our one-minute warning ticked away. The time came and passed with nothing appearing on the display. Five seconds later, eight missile tracks blazed to life.

“Damn,” I said. I activated the autopilot, then took Michelle’s hand and led her to the airlock.

We helped each other attach the jetpacks to our suits then donned and sealed our helmets. I carefully inspected Michelle’s suit, looking for poor seals and loose fastenings. Once I gave her the thumbs up, she did the same for me.

I led the way into the airlock and we waited as it cycled. When the outer hatch slid open, I leaned over and touched my helmet to Michelle’s. “Are you ready?”

Keeping her eyes firmly fixed on mine, Michelle said, “Let’s go.”

Wrapping an arm around my wife, I used several clasps to hook our two suits together, then jumped out into the void. We drifted away from the spaceship which, from our perspective, seemed as if it wasn’t moving. Michelle closed her eyes and wrapped her arms tightly around me.

Making sure our helmets were touching again, I said, “I’m going to fire the jetpack for a bit, so we can get clear of our ship before the autopilot changes course. Keep holding on to me.”

Michelle gave a curt nod, so I fired the jetpack. It looked as if we pulled away from the spaceship, but I was decelerating while the ship maintained its velocity. In just a few seconds, it vanished from sight. I took a positional reading, adjusted our course a few degrees, and kept up my slow deceleration burn.

“Everything is looking good so far, hon,” I said.

“Uh huh,” Michelle said, her reply muffled.

Something, part empathic ability and part husband-senses, told me Michelle was having trouble with something. Fear spiked as I imagined all the myriad things which could go wrong.

“Michelle, what’s wrong?” I asked. “Have you got a suit malfunction or something?”

“The suit is fine, babe,” she said, her voice ragged.

Rather than ask anything more, I opened myself up and read Michelle. I expected to find a twinge of fear, but I found something else entirely. Michelle was absolutely terrified and her terror was building toward a full-on panic!

“Hon, what’s wrong? I’ve never seen you anything more than mildly frightened before.” I tried looking into her eyes, but they were squeezed tightly shut. “What’s terrifying you?”

“Nothing,” she whimpered. Michelle never whimpered. “Lots and lots of nothing. It just goes on and on and…” Michelle’s voice broke and she began sobbing. “I thought I’d be okay, Matt! B-b-but all I can think of is floating away from you outside of Pegasus Station. Floating forever and ever and—”

Without conscious thought, my mind reached out to Michelle. It grabbed her terror and gently eased it out of her mind entirely. I steeled myself for my own bout of fear as I pulled her emotion into my own mind—and the terror hit hard for a second after I pulled it in. Then it changed. Michelle’s blob of emotion—for want of a better phrase—just felt uncomfortable. It sort of sat in the corner of my mind and pulsed.

Oh!” Michelle breathed a soon as the fear left her. “Matt, that was you, wasn’t it?”

“Of course. Do you see any other rogue psychics nearby?”

“That was…” Michelle’s arms squeezed me even more tightly. “Thank you, babe! I don’t…”

“I couldn’t let you suffer like that, Michelle. Not when I could stop it.”

Michelle looked at me, her eyes shining. “But how did you—?”

I shook my head. “I don’t really know. I just wanted to ease your fear and next thing I knew it was inside my head.”

“But why aren’t you terrified?” Michelle asked. “When you absorbed all that anger, it had a real effect on you.”

“My best guess is that I’m not scared of space. Not even your abject terror of it can overcome it.” Another idea occurred to me. “Or maybe my power has a way to wall off stolen emotions, provided I don’t absorb a whole bar-full of the emotion. Either way, I think I can keep you fear-free until we reach the base.”

“Have I told you just how much I love you, Matt?”

“Every single time you look at me, hon.” I grinned at my wife. “It’s too bad we’re stuck in these spacesuits. This would be a really great time to get naked together.”

“Yeah, sex in zero gravity sounds interesting,” Michelle said, laughing. “Sex in zero atmosphere, not so much.”

The rest of the trip to Piscain Station was anticlimactic. Michelle’s ball of terror stayed out of my way and my course to the station was accurate. We took our time maneuvering around the huge station, hunting for an underused, out-of-the-way airlock. Finally, Michelle spotted one.

“I don’t know how you managed to see that door, hon,” I marveled at her eyesight, “but it looks perfect!”

“I don’t know, either,” she said. “It just jumped into focus.”

To my surprise, the outer hatch wasn’t locked. “Let’s get inside and get out of these suits.”

We cycled through the airlock and into a suit prep room. We removed our helmets and gave each other a big kiss.

“That’s real sweet,” a young, male voice said, “but you’re running late and a maintenance crew is due here in six minutes. We’ve got to be gone before they get here!”

Who is this person and how could he be waiting for our heroes? Find out in Chapter 16, coming Monday!